ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A blast ripped through a Shiite protest, the second such attack in three days, in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Friday, killing at least 40 people and wounding 80, police and rescue officials said.
It was not immediately clear whether the bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber or a remote-controlled device, and there were no claims of responsibility.
Militants are intensifying their violent attacks to pressure a government that has been struggling to cope with devastating monsoon-driven floods, described as the worst in the country’s history.
The attack was aimed at a procession of Shiite Muslims who were part of nationwide marches to mark “Al Quds Day,” an annual protest to express solidarity with Palestinians and to condemn Israel.
It came just two days after three suicide bombers struck a Shiite procession in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 31 people and setting off violent demonstrations by infuriated survivors.
On Friday, the demonstrators were passing through a commercial neighborhood of Quetta when the blast occurred.
The Pakistani news network GEO broadcast a video that showed people falling to the ground and scrambling for cover immediately after the explosion. A few people were shown firing into the smoke-filled air. The explosion led to further protests as grieving mourners went on rampage, clashing with the police and setting fire to vehicles and motorcycles parked nearby.
The wounded were immediately ferried to Combined Military Hospital, Quetta District Hospital and Civil Hospital for treatment.
“The deliberate targeting of innocent Pakistanis and worshipers during the holy month of Ramadan, and while the country is recovering from the terrible monsoon flooding, makes these acts particularly vicious,” the United States Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement. “Moreover, attacks on minority communities are attack on the foundation of democracy itself.”
United Nations officials on Friday put the number of people affected by the flooding at 18.7 million. Maurizio Giuliano, a United Nations spokesman in Islamabad, said that flooding in the southern Sindh Province was not yet over.